Infancy and Childhood
The Study of Development
• Developmental psychology: How people grow and
change throughout the life from conception through
infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
• Why study development?
• Why study young children?
• Psychologists study the infancy and childhood for many
– Early childhood experiences affect people as adolescents and
– Studying early development helps us better understand
– Helps us understand what early experiences lead to healthy,
well-adjusted children and adults.
• Developmental psychologists study different
types of development.
– Physical development,
– Social development
– Cognitive development.
• Psychologists use two methods to study how
people change and develop over time.
– Longitudinal method
• Pros and Cons
– Cross-Sectional Method
The Roles of Nature and Nurture
• Nature/nurture debate has been particularly relevant in the
study of development.
– Today most psychologists believe that both play an important role.
• Psychologists use various kinship studies to try to sort out the
biological and hereditary causes.
• There are certain traits, talents and predilections that we may
– Certain disorders (even psychological ones) are hereditary.
– Concordance rate for clinical depression is reportedly about 70
percent for identical twins and about 25 percent for fraternal twins.
– Twin research published last February suggests that childhood
obesity is 77% genetic.
• At the same time, nutrition, environment and social context
influence how these genetic tendencies are expressed.
– Intelligence can be nurtured
• Judith Harris - ―The Nurture Assumption (1998)
• In the context of development,
heredity manifests itself in the
process called maturation.
– Maturation is the automatic and
sequential process of development
that results from genetic signals.
• Infants sit up before they crawl, crawl
before they stand, stand before they walk.
– Infants will not learn these skills until
they are ―ready‖.
• Critical period—a stage or point in
development during which a person or
animal is best suited to learn a particular skill
or behavior pattern.
• If do not have the opportunity to master the
particular skill during the critical period it
becomes much harder thereafter.
• Language development is a classic example.
Stages v. Continuity
• There is debate among psychologists
whether development occurs primarily
in stages or as a continuous process.
• Stage theorists see the
developmental process as stair-
– People stay plateaued for periods, then
take significant developmental jumps
as they hit and move through critical
– Jean Piaget – famous stage theorist
• Continuity theorists believe that
development happens gradually
without distinct levels.
– New abilities act as milestones, but the
process of acquiring the abilities
through mastery grows steadily
Section 2—Physical Development
• Human infants are born
more physically immature
than almost any other
• However, human infants
grow at an extraordinary
rate in the first few years.
• Infancy is the period from
birth to age two.
• In the first year of life
most babies triple their
weight and grow about 10
• Very early in an infant’s life, random movements
are replaced by purposeful movements. This
process is called motor development.
• Motor development proceeds in stages.
• When kids hit ―milestones‖ varies from child to
child and from culture to culture.
– Doctors track these milestones to help
diagnose developmental disorders.
• Cultural differences.
– Examples: Ugandan babies
• Babies are born with a
number of reflexes.
– Reflexes are involuntary
reactions or responses,
such as swallowing.
• Some reflexes are
unique to infants.
Others, like blinking
and swallowing, last a
– Moro or startle reflex
– Babinski reflex
• Infants are programmed to
prefer new and interesting
– Infants prefer pictures of the
human face to other patters
and stimuli, even if very
– 5-10 week-old infants look
longest at patterns that are
fairly complex, regardless of
– By 15 to 20 weeks, what the
pattern is begins to matter.
• Before babies are able to crawl,
they don’t appear to have much
depth perception, but once
they are able to motor about,
they develop it. This seems to
be a survival skill.
– Example: Glass cliff study.
• Hearing is better developed at
birth than eyesight.
– Most newborns stop and look
towards unusual sounds.
• Newborns also distinguish
– React negatively to strong or
pungent odors, but smile when
presented with sweet smells.
Section 3—Social Development
• Social development involves the ways in which
infants and children learn to relate to other
• Involves the way infants learn to bond with care-
givers, make friends and relate to others.
• Many important factors affect social
– parenting styles
– child care
– child abuse and neglect
– self esteem
• Attachment is the emotional
bond that forms between
• The earliest and most
important is between infant
and parents, usually mother
• Attachment normally flows
both ways. It is partly
instinctive and partly
• Attachment is critical for
survival and for healthy
Development of Attachment
• Psychologists who have studied the
attachment of infants have discovered
– At first infants do not bond to anyone
in particular but simply prefer being
held over being alone.
– By 4 months infants develop specific
attachments to their mothers.
– This attachment grows stronger by six
or seven months; infants cry and
complain when they are separated.
– By 8 months many infants develop a
fear of strangers. Stranger Anxiety.
• Why do infants become attached to
• The old explanation for bonding with caregivers was the belief that infants
bonded to those who fed them.
• Studies show children bond with those people (or things) that give them
• Example: Harlow’s infant monkey study.
• Thus, the modern theory is Contact Comfort: the instinctual need to touch
and be touched by something soothing.
Importance of Attachment
• Forming a strong and solid attachment has a number
of important consequences for children.
• One important consequence is providing security to
– Harlow study
– Theory is that attachment provides a comforting, secure
base from which to explore.
– What do these studies suggest will be the consequences to
children who do not form a strong attachment as infants?
• Imprinting is the process by
which some animals form
during a critical period.
• Many animals imprint to the
first object they see one
they become mobile.
– Example: Konrad Lorenz
• There is no critical period
for attachment in humans
or clear evidence that
Secure v. Insecure Attachments
• When mothers or other primary caregivers are
affectionate and reliable, infants usually become
securely attached. Such infants are very
bonded to their caregivers.
• Mother who are unresponsive or unreliable
produce children who are insecurely attached.
• Insecure infants tend to mature into insecure
– They tend to be less happy, have a harder time
forming good friendships and attachments to teachers
and peers, are more likely to get into trouble and do
poorly in school.
• Psychologists examine parenting
styles using two factors: warmth vs.
coldness and strictness v.
• Warm or Cold.
– Warm parents show a great deal of
affection to their children. Hug and kiss
and smile more often. Demonstrate that
they are happy to have children.
– Children of warm parents.
• More likely to be well adjusted.
• More likely to develop a strong
conscience—desire to obey rules for the
sake of being good.
– Children of cold parents tend to want to
obey rules simply to avoid punishment.
Strict or Permissive
• Why parents are either strict
or permissive varies a great
• Studies have shown that
healthy strictness produces
the best results.
– Strictness that is imposed
and self control.
– However, physical
punishment or constant
interference with children
may lead to disobedience
and poor grades.
• Best Parents are
combine warmth with
positive kinds of
• Authoritarian parents
– Believe in obedience for its
– Strict rules are set and
expected to be followed
– Children of such parents
tend to become either
resistant to other people or
dependent on them. Don’t
do as well in school.
Effects of Day Care
• Quality of parenting is much more important than
whether or not a child is in day care.
• Quality daycare does no harm and some studies suggest
that it has some benefits.
• Some benefits of day care
– Children are less upset when their mothers leave. Greater
security and independence away from home and mother.
– They are more sociable with other children, more likely to share,
more independent and more self confident.
• Some problems associated with day care
– Somewhat more likely to be aggressive and less likely to be
cooperative, perhaps due to competition for attention and
• Children do better in day cares that are stimulating and
have more adults per child.
Child Abuse and Neglect
• In a national poll, 5% of parents
admitted to abusing their children
• Child neglect is more common.
• Reasons that parents abuse
– Stress, particularly unemployment
(kick the dog syndrome)
– History of child abuse when they
– Acceptance of violence as a way of
– Lack of attachment to children
– Substance abuse
– Rigid attitudes toward child rearing.
Effects of Child Abuse and Neglect
• Higher risk of developing
• More insecure; less likely to
explore the world
• Less self-confidence
• More likely to be anxious or
• More likely to be aggressive and
abuse their own children
– While child abuse runs in families,
most children who were abused do
not automatically become abusers.
• Self esteem is critical to healthy
emotional development and
happiness in life.
• Childhood is a critical period for
developing self esteem.
• Influences on Self-Esteem
– Parenting style and interaction is
the most important.
– Secure attachment to parents
– Authoritative parents who give firm
rules combined with warmth and
Regard and Esteem
• Carl Rogers identified two ways in which parents can react to
their children—Conditional and Unconditional Positive Regard.
• Conditional Positive Regard—Parents show their love only
when the children behave in certain acceptable ways. Love is
conditional upon the children doing what the parents want.
• Unconditional Positive Regard —Parents love for their
children is not withdrawn when they break rules or otherwise
– Punishment is not personalized.
• Children who receive unconditional love tend to develop higher
– There are important distinctions between unconditional positive
regard and permissiveness.
Gender, Age and Self Esteem
• By 5-7 years, children begin to value
themselves on physical appearance and
performance in school.
– Girls begin to show greater competence in
reading and general academic skills.
– Boys show greater competence in math and
• Boys and girls often become better at the
things they are ―supposed‖ to excel in.
– Predict higher success rates in activities
which represent their gender.
• Self esteem grows until school age.
• Children who find some skill they are good
at develop better self esteem.
• Self esteem starts to decline during grade
school years, bottoming out at 12 and 13
• Begins to go back up again during
Section 4—Cognitive Development
• Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive
• Assimilation and
– Piaget believed that people organize new
information in two ways through
assimilation and accommodation.
– Assimilation --new information is placed
into categories that already exist.
– Accommodation-- creating new
categories for information, or a change in
thinking or adjustment in thinking
because of new information.
• Piaget was a stage theorist—He believed that children’s thinking
developed in a sequence of stages.
• Piaget’s stages are:
• Early infancy (birth-2 years old).
• The key cognitive development: efforts to
act with purpose and coordinate vision and
other sensory stimuli with motor activity.
• Learning to control their movements and
that there is a relationship between their
physical movements and the results.
• Object Permanence —Before about 6-months,
children lack object permanence. If an object
disappears, they act as if the object no longer exists.
– By 8 months, children begin to look for objects that have
been taken away or covered.
The Preoperational Stage
• Preoperational: 2-7
• Preoperational thinking is very one-dimensional. Children in this stage
can only see one aspect of a problem at a time.
• Conservation—Preoperational children do not understand
conservation of mass.
• Preoperational children are also egocentric, artificialistic and
– Egocentric: www.youtube.com/watch?v=OinqFgsIbh0&feature=related
– Lack of Conservation: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLj0IZFLKvg&NR=1
• Age 7 to Puberty
• In this stage children begin to show signs of adult thinking. Use
logic, but logic is limited to concrete things. Abstract thinking is
– Lack of Abstraction:
• Thinking is grounded in concrete experiences; learn better
when have hands-on examples and models.
• Can focus on two dimensions of a problem and thus
understand the law of conservation.
• Less egocentric. Can see the world from someone else’s point
The Formal-Operational Stage
• Starts in puberty
• Capable of abstract thought. Students can
handle algebra because they can understand
the idea of a variable.
• Can deduce rules of behavior from moral
• Can deal with hypothetical situations.
• Can problem solve mentally by thinking
through possible actions and probable
Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral
• Kohlberg was interested in the type of
reasoning children used to answer moral
• Like Piaget, he was a stage theorist.
• Believed that there were three levels with
two stages in each level.
– Preconventional – I, II
– Conventional level – III, IV
– Postconventional level – V, VI
• Preconventional level—(Before about
– Moral judgments based on the
consequences of behavior.
• In Stage 1—believe what is good is what helps
one avoid punishment.
• In Stage 2—what is good is what satisfies a
• Conventional Level—(Starting around age
– Moral judgments based on whether an act
conforms to conventional standards of right and
wrong. Standards created by family, religion and
• In Stage 3—good is what most people would do in a
• In Stage 4—moral judgment is based on maintaining the
social order. Have a high regard for authority.
• Post-Conventional Level—
– Reasoning based on a person’s own moral
standards or goodness. Based on one’s own
judgment and not conventional standards.
• Stage 5—reasoning recognizes that laws represent
agreed-upon procedures, that laws have value and that
they should not be violated without good reason.
• Stage 6—moral reasoning and acts that support the
values of human life, justice and dignity as moral and
good. Rely on own conscience.
End of Chapter